It’s hard to make sure patches and other insignia are placed correctly, Scoutmaster J.S.D. wrote in our March-April issue. J.S.D.’s troop has tried uniform inspections, but parents are reluctant to resew wrongly placed badges. What can be done?
Getting some of my Scouts to even wear a Scout uniform shirt (and properly) has been almost impossible. But I noticed that all Scouts who went to the fall camporee or Klondike derby wanted their patch. Maybe there’s hope for uniforms after all.
Then I got an idea. I announced that I would bring a sewing machine to the next troop meeting and that everyone should wear a T-shirt under his uniform shirt and bring any loose badges. At the meeting, some Scouts were amused that their Scoutmaster knew how to use a sewing machine. (I was self-taught at age 18 and sewed all insignia on my military uniforms during a 16-year career.)
As I worked, I imagined I could see growing pride in the eyes of many of the Scouts. I was sure of it the following week when all of the boys showed up in their Scout uniform shirts and neckerchiefs. One had even persuaded his parents to buy a pair of official trousers. Obviously he got the highest score at the uniform inspection.
Some readers may feel I usurped the prerogative of parents, but it’s hard to argue with results.
Our pack went from a shirts-only unit to better than 90 percent perfect uniforming in three years by regularly recognizing those with correct uniforms at pack meetings. We hold about four uniform inspections a year and award a Cub Scout gold medal the first time a boy has a perfect uniform (everything present, in place, and worn neatly). For each successive perfect uniform, we give a bronze Scout lapel pin to be worn on the gold-medal ribbon.
We don’t announce inspections in advance, which helps keep the boys on their toes. Once a year we have inspections at den meetings. A uniform exchange and uniform “scholarships” ensure that all boys can have a complete uniform.
Our troop has a uniform inspection once a month. We have a preliminary inspection at the previous meeting. Inspections are done using the “if one uniform is wrong in the patrol, all the uniforms are wrong” method.
After the boys are inspected, the boy leaders inspect the adult leaders’ uniforms. Same rules apply.
For the most part our uniforms are correct. If a patrol loses one week, the boys make sure it doesn’t happen again.
It’s important for Scouts to look neat and “uniform.” It is also important to have parents involved with their sons in as many ways as possible. So why not bring a few clean T-shirts to a unit meeting and let Scouts wear them temporarily while a parent volunteer spends 15 or 20 minutes moving, replacing, and sewing on patches.
“Patch Night” might be a fun way to reach the goals of improving uniforming and involving parents in the unit.
Assistant Scoutmaster E.A.
Uniform inspections should be a yearly event for troops and packs. The first is the hardest because you’ll be catching mistakes people have made for years and they’ll be reluctant to change because “it’s too much to fix” and “I’ve had it this way for so long and nobody’s complained.” A Boy Scout’s uniform should be inspected at a board of review. At his next review, any uniform errors must have been corrected or he may be denied his next rank.
In our pack, assistant Cubmasters do uniform inspections at den meetings early in the year. Inspections can be done at pack meetings, with the den being inspected taken to another room. We announce inspection dates in advance. By the way, leaders get inspected too–by the boys!
Boys who pass inspection are given a patch for their “brag vest.” The patch is safety-pinned on to avoid more sewing by parents who have cooperated. Each year we have more boys passing.
We’ve been almost too successful with this. One of our Webelos dens decided not to join a particular troop they visited because the Boy Scouts didn’t wear their uniforms properly!
Highlands Ranch, Colo.
I believe uniform inspections are helpful for dens as well as packs. When I approve a new badge, I write instructions for proper placement on a sticker applied to the back of the badge.
I tell my Cub Scouts and their parents to just pin the badge to the uniform so we can check placement before it’s sewn on.
Den Leader L.A.G.
Our Scout troop is in a low-income area, and many Scouts wear secondhand uniforms bought at thrift stores. The problem is that it is very hard to remove patches and insignia without leaving stitch holes and even tears in the fabric.
Many times in removing insignia I have torn holes in uniforms, and I am an expert seamstress. Usually I can repair the hole and cover it with the correct insignia.
I hope that leaders who insist on correct placement will think twice about it. Think about the boy’s self-esteem, both in being singled out for misplacement of a badge and for having to wear something with holes in it. I think the self-esteem of the boy is more important than the placement of a few patches or insignia.
New Albany, Ind.
I have found that when a boy’s insignia are out of place and the parents are slow to correct the placement, an offer to do the sewing yourself usually gets a good response. In almost every unit you can find someone who is handy with a needle and thread and is willing to do the chore.
It’s worth it to see that everyone is properly uniformed.
Assistant Cubmaster J.C.
Alvin, Tex. S
I used to bring a “seam ripper” to troop meetings. This device, which you can buy wherever sewing supplies are sold, can be slipped under a badge to sever the threads without any risk of ruining the shirt.
We had an inspection, usually informal, at every meeting. A patrol leader would use the seam ripper to remove a Scout’s incorrectly placed insignia (with the approval of the Scout), before the meeting.
At least once a year, the patrol leaders’ council gave instructions about uniforms and insignia. Then there would be a patrol contest on correct placement of badges, using a bare uniform shirt and a pile of insignia with double-faced tape on the backs. It was a standard relay-type race for patrol teams.
Assistant Scoutmaster W.G.S.
A uniform inspection is a great tool to show Scouts and Scouters what their uniforms should look like. If a Scout’s patches are in the wrong place, the boy should be told to have them corrected before his next Scoutmaster conference.
Proper uniforming is one way to show Scout spirit.
Former Scoutmaster R.B.
In addition to regular “patch” nights with several parents bringing sewing machines (including me), I also had an “HONOR” pennant made up. Once a month we hold uniform inspections, but we also give points for sign-offs and advancement — I watch my Instructors to make sure they’re actually observing the skill and not just giving signatures — and for their 10 essentials. The patrol with the highest average score gets to carry the “HONOR” pennant until the next inspection. Once or twice a year the overall winning patrol receives recognition at a court of honor. Our troop needed to replace some tents a couple years ago, and the committee agreed to purchase 7 tents — we told the troop that the winning patrol over a 6 month period would get the first tents (and an extra one for the SPL/ASPL). A year and a half later we did the same thing, but this time the other 3 patrols were competing for new tents.
If the parent would take 2 extra seconds and LOOK in the handbook or online they will find out the right placement of EVERY badge. The only one I ever had sewn on wrong was the arrow heads…. I couldn’t tell which was gold or silver in the book since they shaded them grey and DARKER grey. The uniforms are an important part of scouts. I cringe when I see a scout with his uniform dirty, sewn wrong or just sloppy. I wish we had an inspection. We have 2 class uniforms. class A which is the official uniform and class B is the uniform we wear a more casual meetings.
I’ll be honest. I do not care if a Scout has patches in the wrong place as long as they have good intentions. Uniform inspections once a year are enough, and if they do not get 100% and the parents are informed, there should be changes. If there are not, oh well.
If a Scout asks me as an adult if they did it correctly, I’ll tell them.
I cannot stand those who should know better — read adults — who feel they have to turn every inch of their uniform and jacket into a patch blanket. I especially am upset by adults who sill wear rank on their uniforms outside of an AOL, Eagle, Silver, or QM knot. One Jamboree we saw a unit in he Roosevelt memorial, all wearing 1970’s style berets and with a SM wearing his Life Patch. I warned him that they would be a problem once they arrived at the Jamboree and later he said he could confirm that.
Monthly inspections? Quarterly? Too much worrying about the wrong things in my opinion. We’re here to do Scouting, not to run inspections.
Lead by example
Wear a correct uniform
Educate them don’t correct them
Sewing is a good skill for eveyone to have.
Someone mentioned the Self Esteem of under priveliged Scouts. Wearing the uniform correctly will help their self esteem as will learning skills to keep it looking good. As for shirts with holes, remind them they are licng the Scout law and being Thirfty, they can mend it and work with them on ways to get a better shirt. I ask scouts who leave Scouting to consider giving us their shirt for other scouts who may need it and I cruise Goodwill and craigslist for old shirts for a couple bucks!
Give them the resourcesand your scouts will amaze you!
The only time I had to correct a wrongly placed patch was at a Pack meeting. The cub that I was seated next to had Brownie Fly Up wings sewn on his shirt. I didn’t know the lad, but I quietly asked him if he had a big sister in Girl Scouts. His eyes opened real wide and he asked me how I knew? I then asked him if he and his sister just put all of their loose badges in the same place waiting for their mother to get around to putting them on their uniforms. He nodded. I quietly pointed out that he was wearing one of his big sister’s badges and that he should tell his mom. He thought that I was magic!
Two words, “Badge Magic”. That junk ruins a uniform. While it may be easy for parents to get the patch on, it is impossible to completely get that junk off the shirt. Yes, you can use goof off, but it does not work completely. I work with troops that have donated uniforms and troops that can afford to buy one. The donated shirts are tough to remove insignia from. Many times you are left with holes or a glue spot from the Badge Magic. Best to leave them alone. Catch the shirt when it is new by having a uniform insignia guide sheet to hand out to new Scout parents. Point to the spots where patches go in a meeting. Have uniform photos on your troop website. And tell parents to sew it instead of ironing it on. I offer to sew patches on for my Scouts or show them how to sew themselves. Have a new Scout Patrol uniform sewing night. Sewing is a useful skill and every person should know how to sew their uniform, fix a button and mend a rip.
Did anyone suggest learning to sew, or having a designated seamstress/tailor in the unit family to help refine the kids; uniforms when they need it? My Jamboree Scoutmaster hauled his sewing machine to the ’01 Jambo, where we met, and he put an entire uniform together for me overnight because my family was in kind of a disarray and I didn’t have anyone around who sewed.
So my uniform was a mostly blank shirt, until I met him. (He told us had taken sewing instead of metal shop in junior high because his mother worked, but she had a sewing machine, and let him take care of his uniform and his kid brother’s. They had well over a hundred merit badges between them, so it paid off, and then he started doing it for his home troop, and his Jambo troops.)
It’s not the only solution, but it works!